Two popular Hollywood films mark the spring opening of Vineyard Haven’s vintage Capawock Theater. The live-action remake of “The Jungle Book” will share screen time with a new Melissa McCarthy comedy, “The Boss.” Both begin on Thursday, April 28.
Disney’s “The Jungle Book” is bound to enter classic status as children’s fare. Director Jon Favreau (“Iron Man” and “Elf”) draws from Disney’s 1967 animated film and Rudyard Kipling’s “Jungle Book” story, “Mowgli’s Brother.” Although it was created entirely through special effects in a Los Angeles studio, this version of “The Jungle Book” seems breathtakingly real. Both its Indian jungle and its menagerie of 70 different native animal species make for an enveloping, magical world.
“The Jungle Book” opens with 10-year-old Mowgli, played by Neel Sethi, racing through his jungle world, chased by a wolf pack the audience will soon learn makes up his family. Orphaned as a toddler, Mowgli was rescued by a black panther, Bagheera (voiced by Sir Ben Kingsley). The Bengal tiger Shere Khan, voiced by Idris Elba, was burned by Mowgli’s father and then killed him.
This PG-rated film does not shy away from portraying some of its characters’ violent clashes and subsequent deaths, which may frighten younger children. Friendly and comic animals like Baloo, voiced by Bill Murray, mostly keep the mood light, however, as do occasional songs. Director Favreau relies on footage from real animals to capture movements of the film’s imaginary creatures, and gives them believable voices from a repertoire of familiar screen stars. One issue, though, is that some animals (and bees), like the monkeys in scenes with King Louie, the gigantopithecus voiced by Christopher Walken, don’t speak. Long extinct, the gigantopithecus is the largest known ape, and replaces the orangutan of the 1967 version.
While it may seem tiresome to point out the movie’s lack of positive female characters, it’s important for a children’s audience to understand that just because female bees sting and boa constrictors threaten, like lethally nasty Kaa, voiced by Scarlett Johansson, the villains are not always female. In Kipling’s version, the panther Bagheera was female, while the snake Kaa was male. Go figure. At least Mowgli’s adoptive wolf mother Raksha, voiced by Lupita Nyong’o, assumes leadership of the pack after her partner Akela, voiced by Giancarlo Esposito, is killed. “The Jungle Book” envisions a predominantly male world. Nevertheless, it is a captivating and memorable one.
Melissa McCarthy rules in the comedy ‘The Boss’
Between its painfully unfunny pratfalls and embarrassingly potty-mouthed riffs, Melissa McCarthy’s latest vehicle, “The Boss,” is a bust by most standards. What makes it watchable and funny, however, is the star presence of this talented comedy queen, always fascinating to watch. She plays Michelle Darnell, a despicably egocentric business guru, who dazzles her followers with an entrance straight out of the wildest rock music extravaganza imaginable. Michelle disses everyone around her from her assistant Claire (Kristen Bell), who does a good job of playing second banana, to her ex-lover and nemesis Renault, played by Peter Dinklage.
Working from the character she developed with an L.A. improv group, McCarthy struts her stuff as ruthless tycoon until she’s jailed for insider trading. Months in jail don’t quench her thirst for insult flings, but they do empty her bank account. In flashbacks, we learn she grew up an orphanage reject, and has a phobia about family togetherness. She camps out with single mother Claire and her daughter Rachel, played with not-too-precocious aplomb by Ella Anderson. Michelle gets her groove back by turning a pseudo Brownie troop’s cookie fundraiser into a bad-girl empire. Much more plot follows, along with cameos by the always capable Kathy Bates as Michelle’s mentor Ida, and Margo Martindale as Sister Aluminata.
Decked out in an elegant array of fashions, a fittingly bouffant hairdo, and flawless makeup, McCarthy gives lie to the stereotype of queen-size women as dumpy and plain-faced. She also contributes mightily to the trend of female comedians who have given to life to a field long dominated by men. “The Boss” may not be first-class comedy, but it’s the best Melissa McCarthy around, possibly until “Ghostbusters” arrives this summer.